There is no Mtb world in this blog; it’s my choice, it’s not a kind of bike that fascinates me. I enjoy off-road riding, let’s be clear, but I must take a racing turn to be happy on the saddle. That’s why I decided to offer you an off-road shoes test: the BRN Cross. Are you understanding nothing, eh? Yes, I know, I do it on purpose… 😀
Seriously, you know that I often use pedals with Spd attack even on road bikes and that I wander through the woods and paths every time I can, always with all-purpose bikes, which are now called Gravel. It’s a kind of cyclism where you do not just pedal: you stop for a photo, take a walk to visit a place, walk part of the way with your bike alongside because gear ratio and tires do not allow you to ride on that slope or you just enjoy the slowness of the gesture. So your shoe will not be always attached to the pedal, but it will often work just as a shoe. And this is the interpretation of this test. A different test, a broader test, let me say so; after all, I identify with you cyclists, I try to understand your needs, so that I can provide you with the information you need. Let’s start by meeting the brand name first.
BRN indicates Bernardi Componenti per Ciclo, one of the largest national distributors, if not the biggest, of accessories and components for cycling. For several years it has been offering some products with its own brand and, starting from here, introduced a very complete line of clothing with its brand name.
It does not sell directly to the private individuals, it is just a distributor; but there are so many stores in our country that supply themselves in its catalog. A catalog that every year I download with punctuality, because only there I often found those small spare parts and objects I need to complete an overhauling or some repairs. By browsing it when it was published, I saw the clothing line, and I made a note of doing some further research for a possible test.
Because I my tests I look for peculiar products or products having a good quality/price proportion; or accessories and components with a difference, or which are worth buying because they offer a lot and ask for little. That’s exactly the case of these shoes, that – on paper – boast excellent technical solutions, typical of footwear that cost at least 30-35% more; but on paper, so in order to give my opinion, I asked BRN a sample to test. And then I won’t conceal the fact that, when I can, I like to propose a national product. I’m not a localist person, but you should know how it’s simpler when you talk at the phone in the same language.
We can start and get acquainted with our shoes.
How it is made.
The shape is typical of an expensive off-road shoe, with reinforcements in the right points, the upper in different materials, a sole with a prominent stud, mesh inserts and air intakes and, uncommon for a shoe in this price range, a micrometric closure in addition to the two Velcro bands.
Let’s turn our BRN Cross.
It’s natural, considering the use, finding under the sole a double row of threaded holes to secure the cleats; they can mount the Shimano Spd, Time, Cranck Brothers etc: all those with two holes, just to be clear.
The excursion is wide, anyone will find the perfect position for his own pedaling style; the area where the cleats’ seats are drowned is in polymer, with the regulation marks very clear and intense. A drop of the same material is drowned in the heel.
It happens to everyone to face a short stretch by unhooking the foot, and I noticed that the area we just saw offers a good hold on the pedal and doesn’t get easily scratched.
The shoe is upside down, so let’s continue with the sole. Where we find the rubber tip, the two classical “walls” at the sides and a prominent stud at the heel.
The grip is great, obviously once you put your feet on the road, or rather, off-road. In addition to the good expansion in heights, the correct flares in the design prevent mud from accumulating. And they are comfortable even if we find ourselves strolling to visit the clearing that we reached with so much effort.
Who needs to further improve his grip on heavy terrains (you never faced a “wall” carrying the bike on your shoulders?) could mount a couple of additional cleats on the tip. The threaded holes, protected by a screw, are M5: this is a standard step for any tip cleat on the market.
These are not the production ones, I used some pictures from my personal collection.
Let’s put back the BRN Cross in place: two Velcro straps (with metal eyelet) and a precise micrometric closure, with the classic ratchet mechanism and a button to release the grip. A wide, well-padded band is between the closure and the instep.
The tip has a reinforcement obtained with an extra layer of vamp.
Particular attention has been given to its breathability. We find mesh inserts in the tip, a dense perforation at the sides and two air intakes at the heel (one per side) protected by a metal net.
The heel air intakes are made inside a single rubber band that protects the whole back.
A soft profile ensures the ankle sealing; the tongue too is very comfortable, with a breathable fabric insert.
The inner sole, romovable, reminds of an arch support for its modeled shape. The support of the plantar arch is good as the heel’s one. It’s pretty soft without accusing any pliability.
An extensive perforation, visible when you rotate it, ensures breathability.
Inside, next to the seat of the cleats, the space for inserting water protection, usually provided with some high mid-range pedals.
As we have seen, we have a good care of the details, seams, materials and solutions typical of more expensive footwear. But in the end they are bicycle shoes, they are used to pedaling: so let’s find out how they behave in action.
The road test.
I wrote at the beginning that this test would have been a wide-ranging one, taking as an example a standard day on the saddle of an off-road bike, with some stops and some walks. Somebody would argue that trekking shoes with Spd attack are on the market for years, perfect for tourism. It’s true, but they pay a duty on pedaling: they are too soft, flexible and the balance is more in favor of the walk than the cycling. On the contrary, I wanted some shoes that would be not a torture once you get off the bike, without sacrificing their saddle use. And able to face without problems the different situations you encounter when you ride off-road.
Placing the cleats is simple; the benchmarks engraved in the sole help, position and sliding range are correct so both those who love tip pedaling and plant pedaling always find their right fit.
The width is regular, comfortable. At first I was mistaken, as soon as I wore them, they seemed a lot more narrower. Then with the use there was a natural setting of the upper and my foot was comfortably wrapped; thanks both to the inner sole and to the padding around the ankle, with the plus of the precise micrometric adjustment characterized by a very long tongue. These are solutions that prevent rotations or false ankle movements. Especially when in a dangerous situation you must release quickly and it’s easy to get hurt, so it’s very useful to have a structure that keeps this delicate foot area safe.
Once you hook your foot, you can immediately feel the solidity of the sole, rightly rigid. The pressure of the cleats is spread across the whole shoe, without any annoying pressure on the specific point. Using naked Spd pedals, there is enough space both for exploiting the cleats with angular movement and for quickly releasing, without having the pedal hampering the side studs of the soles. Only by using Spd pedals with external cage, such as the Shimano M-545 and similar ones, you may encounter a slight resistance due to the external structure of the pedal, impacting the lateral pacer.
The scorching heat I met in some days of the test was not appreciated by me; however, it proved to be providential to test the goodness of the ventilation system. The front mesh inserts are very effective and so it is the dense perforation that extends from the tip to almost the entire side. It’s more difficult to promptly perceive the benefits of the air intakes on the heels; you realize that they turned out to be useful only after you remove the shoe and observe (at a safety distance…) that the sock is dry in the back area.
The thrust you can exercise on the pedals is good; the shoe becomes one thing with the pedal, allowing the precise transmission of the energy, without dispersions or bending of the sole. In the topical moments you can tighten your shoe with a quick click; as well as in your relax moments you slightly widen with a slight push of the button, allowing a more free circulation when your foot, under stress, has swelled.
The reinforced tip is rigid without being annoying; only in the first use you feel a slight pressure, a small constriction of the toe (and in any case it depends very much on the foot shape: I have some “chubby” toes), that disappears shortly afterwards. The inner sole provides comfort and doesn’t collapse under the thrust of the pedal.
Even after several hours on the saddle, you don’t feel the need to stop and give a break to your foot. Only in the most suffocating days, it would have been nice to have a ventilation system under the sole too: unfeasible solution on off-road shoes, unless you don’t find water and mud in your shoes… However this is a requirement that doesn’t appear in the typical use of these shoes; I am the one who did an abnormal test, considering even a more tourist use.
The pacer works in a excellent way once you get off the saddle: coping with steep slopes, climbing a soft bank and scrambling over those places you cannot get by pedaling is easy. The grip on the ground is secure, you don’t slip either on the tip or the heel. And for the worst stretches you can always increase the grip installing a couple of cleats on the tip.
In short, a pass in the off-road riding. A technical shoe but not exasperated, with great comfort without compromising the effectiveness of the pedaling. It only loses stiffness by comparing it with a carbon-soled shoe, which, however, costs at least double and thus is a wrong comparison. It wins against many shoes in the same price range, both for effectiveness and technical solutions. So, it’s fine.
But now let’s broaden our view and let’s try to answer this question: can I use these shoes for tourism, even for just one day, or is it better to use some trekking shoes with Spd attacks? I answer immediately: yes.
Of course, they are not walking shoes, if pedaling is just a small fraction of the walk, then it’s better wearing more versatile shoes. But if you wear them for a bicycle ride and a walk to calmly discover the places you reached, then there are no problems. You don’t go on a pilgrimage, just to be clear: you ride a bike and you don’t have change your shoes just off the saddle.
The stud of the sole, the pacer in short, is soft enough so you don’t feel the blows and the grip is good on the road pavement too. No penguin effect and slides like, alas, it happens with road shoes. I wore them doing a little bit of everything: I climbed up and down the stairs with the bike on my shoulders, I did a tourist walk through a small half-abandoned village, I rode on a dirty paved lakefront, I took a coffee downtown. Always being at my ease.
The sole grip proved providential on other occasions too, when I had to release quickly and put my foot down on the ground in no time, because of rather hazardous manoeuvring of hasty motorists I crossed as I left the city. I never made a mystery that this is one of the reasons why I use Spd pedals on the roads too, for 10 months a year: being able to count on the security plus offered by the soles of Mtb shoes instead of the road shoes is important when you deal with the chaos leaving the city behind.
I was looking for a Spd shoe to propose to you, which did not cost a fortune and that could prove effective on both the saddle that on the ground. I found it in this BRN Cross, offered to the public at a suggested price of 85 Euro. It’s just suggested, as some store applies also a little discount. In return of a small amount we have a well-made and a well finished shoe. The ratchet micrometric closure and the functional ventilation system are typical solutions of high end footwear. The materials are solid and there are reinforcements and protections in the most exposed points. The riding comfort is very high for shoes of this price range and I appreciated the solidity offered to the ankle (after many years of pedaling I became delicate in that area…) without ever feeling my foot constricted. I would only improve two details: a ventilation piercing on the tongue protecting the instep and I would apply a small reflective insert on the heel: the latter because you know I am a maniac of the safety on the bike. Among the information in the BRN website, I would add a size conversion table, because we know that cycling shoes do not all fit the same.
Once I got off the saddle, the shoe did its duty when called to give a grip on insidious ground while I pushed the bike or I held on my shoulders; but above all helped without hesitation during the free use, as I went for a walk in some places I reached riding. Which is one of the aspects I was anxious to find out, because many of you live the cycling like I do: without fundamentalisms and enjoying every ride, whether is a training or a tourist one.
I am happy I did this test, I was delighted to offer you a product of a Italian company, usually not inclined to embrace the philosophy of independent tests. And I was delighted to find a shoe with a good quality/price ratio, that could overcome all the test I had set for, guaranteeing a use wider than the specialist one. Without evident renunciations in its effectiveness.
I close this review with the company logo, which is actually the link to the BRN website. I know you are lazy and that you never click on the external links. For once, please, pay back the much work I do for you and click, so make me look good… 😀
If you wantto know kore about BRN products and where you can buy them, please write a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a nice pedaling!